The Third-Party Recruiter: Sales Professional By Way of Recruiting

Nov 6, 2006

The great thing about being a third-party recruiter is that there are no firm rules on how to recruit well. Every client differs, every position differs, and every candidate differs. There are plenty of rules on how not to do it well and we have seen some good examples of that recently.

There is also a lot of online material on how some people think you should recruit, either because they do it that way themselves or because they think you should do it that way, even though they don’t actually recruit at all.

I’ve seen many training presentations that go along the lines of “Here is our top-selling recruiter. Do what he does and you will be successful. Act like he acts and you will also be a top biller.” To a point, a very small point, they might be right, but they have missed out the biggest and most important part: You.

Carving Out Individual Style

You have to develop your own style and be an individual to stand out from the rest. Rather than following one path of advice, listen to many, and rather than trying to be someone else, be you. This will ultimately be the reason why your customers will use you.

Take what ideas you find useful and dispose of or ignore the rest. Some techniques will work for some people but not for others. Some people will be comfortable working in a way that others will not. Whatever you learn, find your own unique style.

So what makes a great third-party recruiter? First and foremost, it is a sales profession. What does that mean to you? It means that you must have a good understanding of sales to be great.

It sounds like common sense, but I speak with far too many recruiters who have absolutely no sales background or training. They work in a sales profession and yet they couldn’t close a door. If you have found your way into this profession and have had no sales training, then get some before you do anything else.

If you can’t get on training courses, there are many books out there that will give you all the help you need in selling. Build your own library of books for ongoing reference. In other words, don’t borrow them or go to the public library; invest in your own.

I can hear many of you now saying, “I haven’t got time to read books,” but let me say that if you are serious about doing well in this profession, read like crazy. If you are not prepared to invest your own time and money into yourself, then why should someone else?

If you read a whole book and get one good idea, it is worth reading. Don’t look for a sales book specifically related to recruiting because you probably won’t find too many. Any good sales book will help, regardless of sector or product because we are not in the recruiting profession; we are in the sales profession by way of recruiting.

Corporate recruiters are in the recruiting profession. The corporate recruiter provides a function to their employer, whereas the third-party recruiter provides a service to their customers. Rather than compete with each other, both the corporate and the third-party recruiter could benefit from understanding this difference.

To be a great third-party recruiter, it must be instinctive for you to handle objections positively. You must know how to use good open questions and when to use a closed question. You must know how and when to close with a variety of different closing techniques for both candidates and clients. Most important, you have to know how to listen. How else will you understand what your clients or candidates really need?

The Customer Is Always Right

A great recruiter understands that it doesn’t matter what you want or who you think is the right candidate; it’s what your client thinks that really matters. You have to understand exactly what they want and the type of person they really like. In other words, you have to have empathy. This is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

My first big lesson in headhunting came soon after I stepped over from hiring and running sales teams in the IT industry. As I started working with clients from the IT sector, I understood the type of people they were looking for and worked hard to find those who I thought would be right for the job.

Like many people who make a similar transition, I thought I knew best. I presented the best of these candidates with total confidence, only to get them all rejected after the first round of interviews. I was deflated. I could not understand what had gone wrong and I thought the hiring manager was a jerk. What did he know?

These candidates were perfect for the job, or so I thought. So much so, I would have hired them myself if I had been the manager. This is exactly where I was going wrong. It was not about me or who I would hire; it was about my client and who they would hire. When I asked why the candidates were not suitable, the response was “Tony, I just did not like any of them.”

It hit me hard but I quickly learned to find candidates who can do the job and are candidates my clients will like. Skillset and experience is crucial, but so is personality. If you present two candidates to your client and one is 100% on the button with their skills and experience but the client does not like them personally, they will not hire them.

However, if your other candidate is only 80% right on skills and experience but they really like the candidate, there will be a much higher chance of them being hired and trained.

When taking the job order, question your clients heavily about all aspects of the role, including the type of person they like. Learn to listen and understand exactly what they want, not what you think they want. Keep giving them what you want and you will always be looking for new clients.

Sales by way of recruiting is like no other sales profession. We have two sales going on in every situation. We have to sell opportunities to candidates and we have to sell candidates to clients. We have to close two sales to get the one. Both in a sense are customers and both have the one thing that will lose you more deals than any other: emotion.

Most other sales professionals only have to deal with customers’ emotions, while we also have to deal with candidates’ emotions. In many instances, we also deal with the emotions of spouses, something you will ignore at your peril, but I’ll leave that subject for another day.

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